Welcome to Nelson, New Zealand
Discover the creative paradise that is Nelson – an irresistible blend of lifestyle and stunning landscape at the top northwest corner of the South Island. From the northern edge of the Southern Alps across the fertile plains and out to a great sweep of beaches, our place is beautifully laid out under a generous sun that delivers New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours. Discover the diverse landscapes in each of these areas.
PeopleNelson and Richmond’s combined population of 54,500 ranks it as New Zealand’s 10th most populous city.
Māori occupation dates back some 800 years, while European settlement occurred in 1842. Six Iwi groups claim ancestral occupation rights, or rights of conquest over areas in this region. These are Ngati Koata, Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama, Te Atiawa, Ngati Kuia and Ngati Toa.
Today Nelson is made up of Kiwis and increasing numbers of immigrants from the UK, Germany, America and further afield.
MāoriThe Nelson region had continuous occupation by early Māori from the Moa Hunting period of 700 - 800 years ago!
‘Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui’ is the Māori name for this region. It means the prow or tip of Maui's canoe, the South Island, from which Maui fished up the North Island.
Nelson offered fertile lands, abundant fish and seafood, and a very favourable climate. Māori quickly established gardens throughout the region, including extensive kumara (sweet potato) gardens alongside the Waimea river, Motueka and Riwaka, Mapua and Parapara.
Most villages were on the coast, close to river valleys. Canoe travel was the method of transport round the coast. Māori were skilled seagoing people in their waka (canoes) carved from a single tree trunk and adept at fishing and good at gardening and harvesting.
Excavations show they ate many different fish species, along with local bird-life including seabirds, duck and pukeko, kaka, tui and kakariki.
The abundance of seafood and birdlife made the greater Nelson region immensely popular and frequently fought over.
The region was also the mid-point for pre-European trans-pacific and Iwi (tribal) trade. North Island Māori using Te Tau Ihu – Mohua (Golden Bay) for a resting point before continuing down the West Coast to trade for Pounamu (Greenstone). Other pacific and Māori traders/travellers journeyed to the Maitahi (Maitai) Valley to gain access to the Pakohe (Agillite), the stone most commonly used for stone tools.
There are settlement sites throughout the region from the 500 year old pa near Nelson city to Puponga Point, Golden Bay – the site of a defended pa (village).
Interested to Learn more about Māori History and the Nelson Region?The local Nelson Whakatu Marae hosts marae visits where you can meet local Māori and learn more about the history here and other operators offer activities and experiences that instill a basic understanding of “things Māori”. Pre-bookings are essential. Contact the Visitor Information Centre for more information.
EconomyThe Nelson economy is based on the ‘big four’ industries; seafood, horticulture, tourism and forestry. Port Nelson is the biggest fishing port in Australasia. There are also a range of growth industries, including art and craft, aviation, engineering technology, and information technology.
Nelson Boulder BankThe Nelson Boulder Bank, visible off the Nelson coast in this south-facing view, stretches 13 kilometres into Tasman Bay in the northern South Island. It is composed of pebbles and boulders up to 1.2 metres in diameter that have originated from Mackay Bluff at the northern end. During northerly storms the boulders are moved south-west along the bank. Radiocarbon dating shows that the bank has developed in the 6,000 years since the sea rose to its present level.
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